Disabled man masters farming on hillside

May 05, 2017
Emmanuel in his house.
Ian Allen/Photographer Emanuel's dilapidated house in Albion Mountain, St Thomas.

The soft pink blossoms from the otaheite apple trees and the dozens of ripe mangoes are symbolic of the sweet and calming personalities of Albion Mountain, St Thomas. The roads are mere impressions of the feet of farmers who journey to their fields on a daily basis or children playing as they run errands or go to school.

At different sections, there are stones, carefully packed to facilitate the occasional vehicle that comes in to collect fresh produce.

The hardship of the road is not felt by the feet of Billy Emanuel. Instead, the pressures are battled by his hands and his wheelchair.




Eighteen years ago, Emanuel had stopped by a restaurant in the nearby community of Trinityville to have a meal. Two gunmen entered the establishment and started to rob the patrons. Emanuel attempted to run, and was shot in his right shoulder.

The bullet travelled to his spine, and left him paralysed from the neck down. He spent five months in the Kingston Public Hospital, and was then sent to the Mona Rehabilitation Centre where he regained the use of his upper limbs.

Emanuel got homesick and was frustrated, as he was riddled with sores. He asked his family to take him home. He was reassured by his parents that they would always take care of him, but things went downhill after his father died.

He realised that he had to find a way to sustain himself, so he decided to go back into farming. His sibling discouraged him, telling him that he would chop his legs or fall over and further hurt himself. He was not daunted by this as he had to eat. He found innovative ways of digging holes to plant his banana and plantain suckers and coffee.

He has two acres of fully grown coffee on his hillside farm, which he uses a wheelchair to access. The banana and plantain are at various points on the farm.

"Mi caan get fi enjoy nutten. As dem (crop) shoot, dem tek it," Emanuel said, as he revealed the hell thieves have been putting him through.




Emanuel was quite eager to show how he gets around but was deterred by the showers that poured as he shared his story.

"I got wet this morning and this is the only dry clothes I have now," he said.

He further explained that he tries not to get wet as he feels tremendous pain when it gets cold.

Among his immediate needs is a wheelchair. The walls of his house are literally crumbling around him, so much so that he has had to abandon a section of the house with the rest threatening to fall if there is a strong enough wind.

Through it all, Emanuel is still grateful for life. He humbly admits that he would gladly accept a wheelchair as a donation. He is, however, adamant that he does not want to live on handouts.

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